My Damn Day Job(s)

You have to give a lot of credit to the folks at FSN – Dan, Helena, Suzanne and Zach (Zach is leaving soon – taking a job in Senator Patty Murray’s office) – for making deadlines.  Day in day out they, along with a team of freelancers and interns, have been producing a great product at Food Safety News. In the last few weeks they have reported in person from the Gulf Coast and from Yuma, Arizona as they told us about the latest risks to our food supply.  At the same time, they have been keeping current on the latest recalls and outbreaks – too many to count in the last few weeks.

Those recalls and outbreaks (and a few other things) are why I have trouble meeting my deadlines (I’m eight hours late submitting this) – it’s my day job, or day jobs that get in the way of keeping current.  So, here is to catching up.

Last week on the train between Washington D.C. and New York City, I tried to pen about my encounter with a Chinese Delegation I had at the request of the State Department.  I had been asked to give an overview of the United States civil justice system.  In a sense, I pitched to the Chinese that trial lawyers and juries are less leeches on the body of business, and more like an antibiotic given with a very, very large needle.  I gently encouraged the Chinese to allow more access to the courts for victims of food poisoning, not only as a way to compensate victims, but as a way to allow citizens a way of venting their grievances without taking over Tiananmen Square.

Not surprisingly, I got a bit of pushback from the Delegation – one fellow in particular.  He touted their criminal law related to food poisoning (they have executed a few) and that their new food safety laws are the best in the world at preventing foodborne illnesses.  Not wanting to create an international incident, I suggested that we might import their criminal system and export a few U.S. trial lawyers.  In response, I got some polite clapping regarding the later from some U.S. businessmen in attendance.

New York was a chance to celebrate the Pulitzer Prize with Michael Moss and his friends and family.  I was honored to both attend (brought my 11-year-old daughter too) and represent Stephanie Smith. I did have a chance to say a few words (anyone surprised?) about the importance of a press that can tell a story like Stephanie’s, and, to tell a story of industry indifference and government ignorance.

Of course, at the same time as the above, I was tracking Salmonella outbreaks in North Carolina and Ohio and another E. coli outbreak (this time O145) linked to lettuce. As always, I am still a bit stunned at the lack of transparency by the FDA – still not naming “The Yuma Farm.”  Also, there is continued silence by the FDA and CDC of a lettuce Salmonella outbreak in at least three states.

And, then there was weighing in on the Wisconsin raw milk debate.  Although my role was small (I provided video links from, it was good to see a Governor stand up for a difficult position.

And, now there is another sprout outbreak.